uMngeni inauguration halted

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uMngeni Mayor elect Chris Pappas yesterday opened a case of trespassing against suspended municipal manager Thembeka Cibane.PHOTO: moeketsi mamane
uMngeni Mayor elect Chris Pappas yesterday opened a case of trespassing against suspended municipal manager Thembeka Cibane.PHOTO: moeketsi mamane

Moments after being sworn in as councillors, the DA in uMngeni opened a case of trespassing against suspended municipal manager Thembeka Cibane.

The councillors walked out of what was meant to be the first council sitting of the newly elected government in uMngeni after Cibane refused to leave.

The first meeting in uMngeni Municipality collapsed yesterday when the DA walked out. They were refusing to be part of “an illegal” meeting where a suspended municipal manager was present.PHOTO:

Cibane attempted to convene the meeting but was stopped by mayor elect Chris Pappas. The DA asked acting municipal manager Sandile Buthelezi to remove Cibane from the Howick West Community Hall. The meeting collapsed when the DA walked out leaving the ANC and municipal officials in their seats.

The DA councillors, along with two EFF councillors were later sworn in at the Howick Magistrates court. At this point, the ANC caucus was nowhere to be seen.

Chris Pappas later opened the case at the Howick Police Station saying the new government would not be derailed.

“This is not something we are [not] used to. The disregard for the law happens every day in this council,” said Pappas.

He said they had waited for too long to get where they are and that two more weeks of waiting was nothing.

“The people of this municipality voted for change and that is what they will get,” said Pappas.

He added that the events of the morning had instead left them energized.

“We are now official councillors and we will demand that a special council meeting be called within 72 hours,” said Pappas.

uMngeni DA Mayor Chris Pappas along with other DA AND EFF councillors were sworn in yesterday.PHOTOS: moeketsi mamane

He said when that meeting is convened the council will elect a speaker. The speaker will then preside over the election of a mayor and a deputy mayor.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said what happened was an attempt to roll back a democratic outcome.

“Trying to turn back the tide of what has happened in uMngeni [the election] is futile,” said Steenhuisen.

He said now that the councillors had been sworn in they could start working.

DA KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Dean Mcpherson said the DA’s lawyers would approach the Pietermaritzburg High Court on an urgent basis to compel the council to sit.

“We are not going to allow the ANC’s plan to not have a government within the next 14 days and then to try and have the municipality under administration because that is what they want,” said Mcpherson.

He added they would seek personal cost orders against municipal officials who were standing in the way of allowing the council to sit. “Municipal officials need to think long and hard about who they are taking instructions from because there will be financial consequences,” said Mcpherson.

Cibane who initially declined to comment told The Witness that she did not have to explain why she was present at the inauguration.

She said her suspension lapsed on November 2.

Cibane was suspended in late August after the Special Investigating Unit recommended that all officials implicated in the irregular spending of a municipal infrastructure grant on Covid-19 relief be disciplined.

Opposition parties react

ANC Moses Mabhida Regional Task Team (RTT) co-ordinator Mandla Zondi who was present at the failed inauguration said what happened was disappointing.

“We are not privy to what is happening in the administration and we can’t comment on whether she is suspended or not suspended,” said Zondi.

Zondi said they had hoped their councillors would be sworn in today so they could hit the ground running.

EFF spokesperson in uMngeni Xola Mehlomakhulu said what the ANC had done was not shocking.

“We are not dumbfounded or disgusted by this because this is what the ANC does,” said Mehlomakhulu.

He said the presence of Cibane was the last kick of a dying horse

“In fact the horse is dead and it refuses to die,” said Mehlomakhulu.

• siyamtanda.capa@witness.co.za

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